Community brightens Christmas for family displaced by fire

Hotel room decorated with donated gifts, tree

By Paul Suarez, Columbian freelance

Published:

 

Seven stockings filled with goodies are hanging over a lit fireplace. Nearby, a 2-foot decorated tree is surrounded by packages. It’s a cheery Christmas spread, but this Felida family sees the meaning behind the gifts: generosity and hope.

The Scovil family was displaced when a fire caused heavy smoke damage to their split-level home on Dec. 9. Since then, the family has relocated to a two-bedroom suite at a local hotel. On Saturday, a friend of daughter Nicole Scovil, 17, presented the family of five (plus two dogs, a gecko and two cats) with the Christmas presents, plus other essentials such as toiletries, blankets and clothes. It was a community effort.

“I was touched and humbled,” Sandy Scovil said. “It was kind of like we’re going to be OK, we’re going to get through this.”

She said she was amazed at how “wonderful and generous” people can be.

This support network was powered, in part, by Katrina Cabalfin, who goes to school with Nicole at Skyview High School.

When Katrina heard about the fire at the Scovil home, she decided to go to school, even though she had a concussion and was supposed to be out for the week. Katrina felt compelled to help after Nicole shared the story of the house fire at school, she said.

“I was like, ‘Oh we have to help this family,’” Katrina said.

She called various stores and got in touch with other students and teachers to get donations. Stores and businesses donated items and gift cards to the family.

“It was the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

Katrina’s mom, Elizabeth Cabalfin, drove her daughter around from store to store and helped with shopping.

“I was so impressed with her,” Elizabeth said of her daughter.

Katrina and Sandy Scovil said Skyview students Jordan Kline and Polly Sobeck were also big helpers.

Each family member — mom Sandy; dad Ed; Nate, 19; Nicole, 17; Noelle, 11 — and the two dogs, Jazz and Shayla, has a stocking stuffed with presents tacked above the room’s gas fireplace in the Homewood Suites by Hilton. Their tree is parked in the corner of their room and surrounded by gift cards, movies, wrapped packages, slippers, blankets and stuffed animals.

Lessons learned

The fire that blackened the inside of the Scovils’ Felida home was started by a home theater subwoofer failure, said Dawn Johnson, Fire District 6 spokeswoman.

The blaze caused an estimated $120,000 in damages to the structure and $70,000 to contents. Sandy said she isn’t looking for sympathy but is trying to turn the event into a teaching opportunity.

She’s telling family, friends and reporters to be sure to keep subwoofers slightly elevated above the ground and to avoid stacking items on them.

The family kept its subwoofer on the ground next to used newspapers they use to start fires in the fireplace, she said.

The fire marshal told the family it was a good thing the fire happened when no one was home, Sandy said.

Fire District 6 spokeswoman Johnson said the hope with a fire like that is a home’s residents will get out before the smoke gets too bad. If anyone was home, they had working smoke alarms, which would have helped them know to evacuate, Johnson said.

She said Sandy did the right thing when she returned to her house and found it filled with smoke: she went to a neighbor’s home and called 911 instead of going in the home to recover personal items.

Sandy said she is grateful to firefighters’ efforts and credits them for saving her home.

No complaints

What’s next for the Scovils?

They are planning to move out of the hotel and into a rental home later this week. They will stay there for several months while their house is repaired.

Sandy said she hired a company to put Christmas lights on her rental home and plans to take the family out to get a tree later this week. They’re not worrying about gifts this year, just tradition and being together.

“I’m not complaining. We have a roof over our head, we have clothes on our back,” she said. “As long as we have each other, we’re OK.”